To most people design is the way something looks or feels – a poster, an iPhone, a website or a cool appliance. Design is a means of self-expression, and can be used to create beautiful things. But what if the real value of design lies in applying it outside the realm of art, and using it for creative problem-solving in other places? What if design is really “a way of looking at the world with an eye toward changing it.”
Design involves the act of studying things to find out what’s lacking, and what needs to be improved. Design uses research to find out what’s already been done, what worked and what didn’t. Design is coming up with multiple ideas, and prototyping and testing those ideas in order to find the best solution. So, what if we’re not just talking about aesthetics, or a functional website, or a chair? What if we’re talking about solving big complex problems like education, transportation, or social inequality?
When you enlarge the definition of design, everybody is a designer. Everyone with an internet connection has the ability to research, collaborate, solve problems and express themselves. Design provides the way of thinking, the approach to a problem, and the methodology to solve them. That doesn’t mean the solutions are easy. It doesn’t mean anything will be solved in a day. But consider taking just one small step, addressing a single problem, a local situation, on a case-by-case basis, that will benefit from change.
As Dan Rather so aptly put it, “We cannot sit passively and expect happiness or justice to come to us. To make the new year truly a happier one requires energy and ingenuity. It requires action. It is a big world with many problems. Few are easily fixable and none of us can fix any of them alone. Make resolutions to act in even small ways you can accomplish, and… build from there. I have seen… what human action, following the light of righteousness and love, can accomplish.”
I’m an optimist. I believe we all have a gift or talent, that we can use to make a difference. This year, I’m choosing to focus on what I can do, to make my own new year happier, and to bring more happiness to others. Because each one of us has the power make a difference.
1. Make it easy for the customer to buy.
A compelling brand identity provides any company, any size, anywhere, with an immediately recognizable, distinctive, professional image that positions it for success. An cohesive identity helps manage the perception of a company, and differentiates it from its competitors. A smart identity system conveys respect for the customer, and makes it easy for them to understand the products and services you offer.
2. Make it easy for the sales force to sell.
A cohesive brand identity builds awareness and understanding of a company and its strengths. It clearly communicates a company’s unique value proposition. Consistent communications across all media – print, digital, direct, social, video and display – send a strong signal to the customer about the commitment of the company to their product or service.
3. Make it easy to build brand equity.
A brand, the company’s reputation, is one of its most valuable assets. A strong brand identity will increase recognition, awareness, and customer loyalty, resulting in increased sales and success for your organization.
Today marks the day, 35 years ago, that I opened the doors at M + M Design. It was a one-room studio at 56 Arbor Street, in a back hall, near the loading dock. I was equipped with a drawing table, pads, pencils, Rapidograph pens, markers, rulers, triangles and tape; business cards; a phone; and a whopping 1 1/2 years of agency experience. My old co-workers wished me well. I was on the way to living my dream.
Finding clients was my first assignment. I started at A in the phone book. I reached out to family, friends, colleagues, and my former employer’s clients, since he hardly viewed me as a potential competitor. Business trickled in. People like Sandy Sandusky, Barry Kramer, Ted Paulsen, Jamie Fritsch, Jeffrey Fox and Pattie Jacobus took a chance on an eager, young designer. The workload soon exceeded my capabilities alone. Frank joined M + M the following year.
For 35 years, I’ve pursued my passion – collaborating with CEOs, marketing executives, business owners, non-profit organizations and entrepreneurs. We’ve met the challenges of corporate restructuring, budget cuts, market crashes, recession, the loss of family members and friends, and the technological revolution of our industry. Despite it all, good design rules.
Some say, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m thankful for the opportunity to get up and go to design every day. I’m grateful to so many loyal, supportive colleagues and friends – Janice Smith, Greg and Maura Borsecnik, Tony Ieraci, Sandy Matheny, Andy Sadlon, and too many more to name.
Thank you all. I couldn’t have done it without you.